Our beliefs determine how we experience life.
Published: Monday 1st February 2021.
Interview with Pernille Plantener (Coach and NVC Trainer*)
Angelina: Hi Pernille, Albert Einstein asked a very important question to people. The basic question, which is the basis of philosophy in our life, from that question everything becomes…"Is the universe a friendly place for us?” What do you think about it?
Pernille: Hahaha, what a lovely question. I am just enjoying the energy that this gives, it could be the objective truth. I think that evolution is the fact that me and you survived, like everybody who still lives on this planet right now from our ancestors who survived lions, bears and the earthquakes and all the hardship that humanity faced in the last 70.000 years. Our brain has developed, to help people survive and I believe that our brain is looking for danger all the time so that we can survive and have offspring. So, our brain knows that our planet is not a friendly place. It is a dangerous place. Looking from our human potential, yes, it is a friendly place. What we need to do through practice throughout our life is to work with our fears so that we can see life as a friendly place.
Angelina: I would like to share with you my experience about beliefs. We have some beliefs inside us, and they are our point of view, how we think about them. In my past, my mind was very scared, and the world for me was a very unsafe place so I had to live in a defensive way. Because I had those beliefs, and they were growing inside me something had to change. I met a lot of good people and found myself in a lot of good situations. I changed and everything changed. Now I feel that the world is a safer place for me. So maybe, our inner beliefs are helpful?
Pernille: Definitely, our beliefs determine how we experience life. Our beliefs are subjective, and it is the reason why I laughed at this question. I strongly agree with you that this is a matter of individuals’ beliefs, based on early experiences and you know our brain works this way that if you experience something dangerous, you will remember forever. Not necessarily consciously, but your nervous system will alarm you when something similar happens. If we experience something which is loving, warm, supporting, it is beautiful, but it does not have the same impact on us. So, we must work with a positive experience to make it stick with us. So, every individual must do some work if he wants to have a friendly universe.
Angelina: You know, I asked you about beliefs because I meet a lot of people and they have some beliefs which are not necessarily true; they do not connect with the facts. For example, I had a client who told me that his dad repeatedly told him that he had two left hands and that he would not succeed in life.
I worked with him on changing his beliefs about having two left hands and not being good enough because he had was a beautiful family, his business was prospering very well, he had a lot of friends etc. He was able to create something good from what he had heard a lot in his past. How strongly do you think we keep those beliefs in our brain?
Pernille: Beliefs are created in our early life to serve something important for us. By making sense for us in a chaotic world or making the world safer for us. It is quite common for people to take some serious vows; it could be: “I swear to the universe that I will not be successful” In order to not frighten mum, so that mum will always know that she will be safe with me and she will not get depressed, which would have been unbearable for you when you were little. The good news is we can decide how we want to navigate in the world and then become aware of our beliefs, and actually we can go back in time and find the point of choice when because of the circumstances, we chose this belief and then we can work on changing it, into a powerful belief, for example I have two right hands.
Angelina: So, you think that these beliefs are very harmful for us but secure for-example some family circumstances or something like that?
Pernille: They may be harmful in terms of how they kept us small or they kept us away from success. Once we realise that they originated from another time in our life where they had a perfect function to keep us safe, and we now want to change them, we cannot hate them. We should become grateful for the safety they provided and then we can negotiate with them and chose some better beliefs for us now.
Angelina: Pernille, now we live in a society where everybody wants to be happy and successful in life and not feel sad or angry. During your workshop in Krakow, you said that emotions are energies in motions. Now my question is, “if somebody is angry or upset and he decides to take some pills or switch the TV on or drink some alcohol to forget about those feelings, where is that energy? Does it stay in your body?
Pernille: Yes, very much in the body. I believe that when we suppress feelings of anger, anxiety, or positive emotions as well, like excitement, the energy stays in your body and can lead to many illnesses. When you keep your anger inside yourself, you can get problems digestion problems, for instance.
Angelina: You know I had a wonderful professor at my University who told us that if we had a headache, we should not take pills but to think about what the pain is trying to tell us?
Pernille: Sometimes it can be very overwhelming, because if you have had in your past some experiences with suppressing your emotions for safety reasons, and when you grow up somebody tells you that you should feel your emotions, you encourage yourself to find out what your emotions are telling you. This can be overwhelming.
You need to take small steps. Do not start with the most difficult situations but with little irritations or disappointments and try to feel what they told you. From our workshop we learnt that feeling our feelings is not the same as acting them out. We do not have to scream or shout we can just sit in a chair and be curious about our body sensations. Just be curious about them. Which image could describe those feelings? What kind of emotions are they?
Angelina: Yes, you are right. I meet a lot of people who invest their time into many activities, but they do not invest any time in their inside world. So, to conclude, if you feel something, you should ask yourself what this emotion is trying to tell you?
Pernille: And one question that I like specifically is what this emotion is longing for? In Nonviolent Communication we assume that feelings are how we experience things; if our needs are met – positive feelings – if our needs are or not met – negative feelings.
Very often we have two needs or two emotions at the same time, which seems to pull in opposite directions. For example, the need to rest and the need to be trustworthy that keeps you from resting until we have done what we promised. It is important to distinguish between the need (rest, trustworthiness) and the strategy (lying on the sofa or working hard until midnight). There might be other strategies that better serve both needs, for instance, re-negotiating your deadline, or acquiring help, or having a power nap before continuing. What it takes is that we find a language to communicate our needs and engage in a discussion about the strategies which takes everybody’s needs into consideration
* Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one's own inner experience), empathy (defined as an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).